3 Herb Mamas

Wednesday’s Weeds: PURSLANE

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PURSLANE (Portulaca oleracea)

Purslane is the nutritional powerhouse that is a crunchy delight to eat and is a common food in Europe, especially the Mediterranean area, but sadly ignored in the U.S. Most people who attend my weed walks recognize the plant from weeding it out of their gardens and flower beds but few have tasted it. Nutritionally, this wild green is “pumping iron” with more than twice as many omega-3’s as kale and possibly more than any other green analyzed. Ditto for vitamin E, and watch out Popeye, this delicious wild edible has more iron than spinach. It also contains vitamins A and C, calcium, and phosphorus.

Purslane loves hot weather and stands up to drought like a champ. A 100+ degree day like we have forecast for our area today will find this lovely low-growing green cool as a cucumber and a welcome addition to our cold salads buffet on the dinner table tonight. The stems of Purslane are generally reddish and look somewhat like a network of pipes or tubes. The stems are just as delicious as the leaves and both are juicy, sweet and crunchy. This is a succulent plant with thick leaves and stems, which is one of the reasons it can retain moisture during dry spells and heat waves.

The flowers on Purslane are tiny (less than 1/4 inch) and yellow and each individual blossom lasts just one day. They eventually produce a small pod of shiny black seeds, which you can collect to spread into other dry, sunny areas to use as an edible ground cover.

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Purslane flower

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Purslane seeds

Since we are experimenting with many new permaculture techniques in order to deal with climate changes in our area, I’ve been observing the way that nature arranges plants into “guilds”, or mutually beneficial groupings, and following her lead. When I planted new strawberry beds this spring I included some Borage seedlings, which are said to improve plant vigor, disease-resistance and flavor in strawberries (and tomatoes). There were still bare spaces between the new plants and I planned to mulch after a few weeks. But before I did so Purslane began to pop up in the openings. It makes a lovely ground cover/living mulch that is also delicious and nutritious. In permaculture an important principle is that every plant must serve multiple functions for the ecosystem to thrive.

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Happy plant guild of Purslane, Borage, Strawberries & Lamb’s Quarters

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Newly planted permaculture bed filling in with Strawberries, Borage & Purslane

Purslane can be enjoyed in salads, cooked in a stir-fry, steamed or added to other cooked dishes. The older stems can be pickled just as you would green beans or cucumbers. The tiny black seeds are nutritious as well and can be added to baked good or ground into a flour.  If you are feeling adventurous you can try a traditional Mexican dish called Verdolagas con Queso, a sort of Purslane soft taco. Simply saute (some people steam the Purslane first) Purslane with Garlic, onion, chopped tomatoes and chilies. Add some eggs and scramble a bit along with some crumbled salty white cheese like feta or queso blanco. Fold into a warm tortilla and serve. Yes, it’s on the evening menu for us!

            Munch! Munch! ~Leenie

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Wednesday’s Weeds: MULLEIN

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MULLEIN (Verbascum thapsus)

With common names like King’s Candle, Torches, Candlewick Plant, and Hag’s Taper you can probably guess one of the uses for Mullein that enjoys a long history. Later in the post I will share how to gather and transform this common (in our area) plant to use for making beautiful and useful torches for your next camp-out or evening outdoor activity. Other common names include Aaron’s Rod (or Staff), Our Lady’s Flannel, Velvet Dock, Jupiter’s-, Jacob’s-, Peter’s-, or Shepherd’s-Staff, Adam’s Flannel, Beggar’s Blanket, and Cowboy’s Toilet Paper. There are more and an exploration of common names can be an enjoyable research project. Suffice it to say, a plethora of folk names for one plant indicates a close association between people and the plant. Many of them even reveal the manner in which it was used, as in the case of Cowboy’s Toilet Paper.

Mullein is a biennial, which means it has a two year cycle of growth from germination to flowering and production of new seeds. The first year the plant forms a basal rosette of softy furry leaves that remain fairly close to the ground. All parts of the Mullein plant are useful medicinally and the leaves and flowers are edible. However, the leaves being covered in fine down would not be very enjoyable to eat since most of us lack a taste for fuzzy salad greens. One friend did tell me that she makes a great Mullein leaf vinegar to use in salad dressings and marinades. I am going to try some this summer. It would make an excellent vinegar given its high mineral content profile. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, selenium as well as some B vitamins, and vinegar is an excellent vehicle for extracting minerals from plants.

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First year rosette of Mullein leaves

In the second year the Mullein plant will return in early spring as a rosette again but then quickly send up a tall stalk that will flower sometime between June and September. The flowers gathered and infused in olive oil, with or without the addition of garlic, are a traditional remedy for ear aches. You could also use it with your Mullein leaf vinegar for making a healing salad dressing.

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Sunny blossoms along a Mullein stalk…edible and medicinal!

Mullein leaves have traditionally been used in teas, for steaming one’s stuffy head and breathing in deeply to break up lung congestion, and smoked as a tobacco for the same purpose. It is an expectorant so expect some coughing but it will be a productive cough…I promise. I sort of have to be ready for my coughing fit, which lasts about 10-15 minutes for me. The rest of my family does not seem to react quite as strongly and violently as I do but I have used it for myself in cases of severe lung congestion and bronchitis with excellent results, succeeding where two rounds of antibiotics had failed. I have actually learned that using honeyed Elecampane roots is my preferred lung ally but that is a plant and a story for another blog post. If I make a tea from the leaves for children with a chest cold I like to combine it with Chamomile, Calendula, Lemon Balm, and/or Catnip for the soothing/calming benefits they provide. Adding a little raw, local honey to this would further add benefits. Both honey and warm tea thin mucous secretions.

To make wonderful torches for using outdoors at night you will need to gather well-dried stalks from last year’s flowering. They are often standing in fields and dry places and are easily spotted along roadsides and waste places. I often gather them in the winter or early in the spring and allow them to dry completely before coating with wax.

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Several dozen well-dried Mullein stalks ready to be made into torches.

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Melt down old broken crayons (remove the paper) and candle stubs to coat the Mullein stalks. One recycled can per color.

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Brushing on a base layer of wax. Any color is fine, just seal up the whole flower stalk where there are old seed heads. You can decorate with other colors afterward. I use old paintbrushes that I leave in each can. I never clean the brushes, just melt the wax off the next time I melt it down for the next batch of torches. 

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Every Mullein stalk torch is unique. This is a very fun activity to do with kids and a good, practically free craft. I cover a table outdoors with newspaper to make clean up easy. When you are ready to use your torch simply “plant” them in the ground or a pot filled with sand. Scrap or break a small spot off the tip of your torch so you can light the “wick”. Once it is burning it is actually a little hard to extinguish. It will even continue to burn in the rain. If you do need to extinguish it before it finishes burning all the way down to the end of the wax, simply bury the burning tip in a bucket of sand. Depending upon how thickly the wax is coated on your torch it burns for a little over an hour per foot. The stalk that is left over can be composted or used for some other purpose like staking a tall flower in the garden.

Hoping you are scheduling some fun into your summer days! ~Leenie

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Wednesday’s Weeds: RED CLOVER

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Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) watercolor painted in the field by a student while participating in a weed walk and now gracing one of my many herbal experiments diaries.

Red Clover speaks volumes about the value of common…and commonly overlooked…plants. I admit that I use it so commonly in my daily tea blends that I nearly overlooked including here myself. I sometimes forget what a powerhouse this herb has been for me. It is readily available in many open fields and lawns in my community but the season is generally relatively short since it likes the cool days of late spring and early summer. Once the intense heat of summer gets started Red Clover goes dormant. It will spring back in the fall once the days cool down a bit again and you can fit in a few more harvests before the frosts hit.

Red clover is very rich in minerals, especially calcium, nitrogen, magnesium, and iron. It also provides many B vitamins and C. You might see why it is in almost every pot of daily tea blend I make. What a great foundational herb since the flavor is mild and delicious. Since it is a detoxifying herb it is often included in formulas for addressing skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. It is one of the herbs used in the famous Essiac anti-cancer formula as well as traditionally addressing issues with tumors, cysts and fibroids. I have had excellent success with Red Clover (1 quart of tea consumed daily) when an PAP smear result showed atypical cell growth after only one month of use. It is also used as a respiratory tonic and would combine well with Mullein leaves and your favorite Mint family plants for this purpose. It can be tinctured as well, although I most enjoy it as a tea.

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Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) in the field. Note the whitish chevrons on the leaves, an identifying characteristic.

Red Clover is a common seed added to pasture grasses for pastures where cattle and other livestock graze because it makes an excellent companion for grasses due to its nitrogen-fixing abilities. It performs better in acid soils and establishes more quickly than Alfalfa, and Red Clover is more drought tolerant than White Clover. It is easy to seed along with any cover crops you might grow in your gardens to help it establish near your home. I like Red Clover and Oats together.

Finding good quality dried Red Clover blossoms commercially is no easy matter. Additionally, it is quite expensive, over $30 per pound from most sources. Many years ago I neglected to dry enough Red Clover for the year and I purchased some from what I considered a reputable source. Below is a photo of that commercial Red Clover alongside my own wild-crafted and home dried. I am sure you can tell which is which and you can be sure that I’ve taken care to gather plenty in subsequent years.

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Rosemary Gladstar has taught that a dried plant should look, smell, and taste like the fresh version, lacking nothing except the water it contained. I try to hold that standard for my cultivated or wild-crafted, home-prepared herbs. I dry Red Clover at low heat and store it in glass jars in a closed cupboard away from light and heat.

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Freshly gathered Red Clover. I can gather for drying about half a gallon on my morning walks.

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On the left is the last of the 2013 harvest and on the right is the first of the 2014 harvest. 

Carpe diem! ~Leenie

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Wednesday’s Weeds: WILD CHERRY

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WILD CHERRY (Prunus serotina)

This lovely wild tree is in bloom now at the edge of a wooded area near our home. I start looking for the beautiful wands of flowers draping themselves and waving in the spring breezes in May. Mine usually bloom later than the cultivated cherry trees we have planted. I don’t always gather because the bark is the medicinal part used and striping the bark from a tree effectively kills it. There are alternatives, however, if you choose to use this traditional wild medicine. Wild Cherry is still included in the official U.S. Pharmacopeia and is an ingredient in many commercial cough formulas even today.

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Close-up of Wild Cherry blossoms

Wild cherry bark is a traditional remedy for a persistent cough and thus has a place in preparations for bronchitis and chest colds. The inner bark just under the woody bark is the part used and should always be dried before use. Rather than stripping the outer bark from the main trunk of the tree, young twigs can be gathered from the tips or fallen branches after storms often provide some useful medicine. The inner bark is traditionally harvested in the fall.

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The inner bark of Wild Cherry is easily harvested by peeling away the outer bark and scraping with a knife or even a finger nail.

Some herbalists recommend doing a cold water extraction of dried cherry bark while others use a traditional boiled water infusion as you would for making a cup of tea. At any rate, long simmering, as you would for making a decoction with most roots and barks, is not recommended. Wild cherry bark is an excellent ingredient for a syrup to have on hand during cold and flu season. Other ingredients to consider might include Echinacea, Elderberry, Mullein, Cinnamon, and Elecampane. Research and customize your own formula.

The basic formula for making a syrup is to place 2 ounces of dried herbal blend into a stainless steel or other non-aluminum pot along with 1 quart of water, bring to a simmer, reducing heat and simmering until the liquid is reduced by half (usually around 20 minutes). If I were including Wild Cherry bark I would personally add that after removing the simmered herbs from the heat. I would cover the pot and allow it to steep with the dried Wild Cherry bark addition for about an hour. Next strain the plant material through cheese cloth, composting the herbs. To each pint of herbal liquid add 1 cup of raw honey or natural maple syrup. Sugar can be used in equal proportion to liquid to create a more shelf stable syrup but I prefer using natural sweeteners in lower concentrations and then simply refrigerating or freezing the syrup to preserve. Both honey and maple syrup bring healing qualities to the table in their own right. Some diabetics can use maple syrup in small quantities. Research and decide on the best option for you. I’ve used refrigerated syrups for months with no signs of mold or loss of quality. I also like to freeze syrups in ice cube trays, which can be soothing and refreshing for someone suffering with an inflamed sore throat and fever. You can also use the tea or syrup to make gelatin, which children are often happy to take when they are ill.

So even though harvest time is many months away this is an excellent time to find Wild Cherry. Tie a ribbon around a limb to mark it for later use and for watching through the seasons.

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Wild Cherry fruiting

Wishing you growing blessings & abundant harvests!

~Leenie

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Wednesday’s Weeds: WHAT’S THIS PLANT?

By far the most commonly asked question on weed walks, through e-mailed or Facebook-messaged photos, or even via phone calls is, “What’s this plant?” Over the years I have learned that the sooner I reveal the name of a plant the quicker people stop listening and noticing details about the plant. It’s as if the name is the sum total of what constitutes knowing an organism. Imagine if we approached knowing people or animals like that. Just a long series of  girls, boys, dogs, cats, lizards, women, grandfathers, infants, and so on. Maybe some would go a little further and be able to label them Ben Johnson, Michelle Winston, Gi-gi, Golden Retriever, Siamese, etc. But that would hardly scratch the surface of actually knowing them, wouldn’t it?

I feel the same thing can happen with plants. I like to point at a jagged toothed  leafy plant on weed walks and ask who knows what the plant is. Almost invariably every hand goes up and I hear shouts of: Dandelion! And everyone is ready to move on because we all know the name and like to assume that means we know the plant. (Sometimes I am ornery and point to a young Chicory plant, which looks very similar until you get down close and notice the differences.) Then we proceed to spend another 20 minutes or so noticing details about the Dandelion, tasting, talking about its value and strengths, how it helps the soil, plants around it, humans. In 20 minutes I still know I have only scratched the surface because in the 5+ decades I have been walking this good green Earth and delighting in and using this plant, I continue to learn something new about it every single year.

So, for today’s wild plant (that turns out to be a traditional medicinal), I will save the name for the end (Please don’t scroll ahead!) and take you through a step-by-step process on how to identify a plant that you do not know. I always recommend using keys over field guides. Field guides can be wonderful tools and provide useful information. However, they can also make us lazy about our identification methods and can possibly result in mis-identifications. This is because most of us tend to flip through all those lovely color photos haphazardly hoping to come across one that matches the plant in front of us. The important information lies in the description and botanical terms, which all too often are ignored once a name/label has been found.

Two of my favorite keys are NEWCOMB’S WILDFLOWER GUIDE by Lawrence Newcomb and BOTANY IN A DAY by Thomas J. Elpel. Each one works slightly differently so I will stick to NEWCOMB’S today and save BOTANY IN A DAY for another plant on another day. NEWCOMB’S has no color photos so it often gets overlooked on book store shelves. You should read the introduction to understand fully how the key works  but you will see it in a nutshell here as we identify this plant:

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This lush, green vine with the lovely heart shaped leaves is the one I am interested in today. It is growing in the woods near my home.

My first step is to just sit down and enjoy the plant, notice where it is growing (in a shady woodland), the direction in which is it growing (away from rather than toward the sun), other plants around it that I might know, and so on. I also like to simply “listen” to the plant. This is maybe a more elusive concept…learning directly from the plants themselves…but it is something I like to take time out to do. I often jot down “inspirations” that come to me about how the plant might be useful and to whom, which parts or whether to use it whole, dried or fresh, whether it might be food or medicine, etc. I don’t worry about being right about any of it because I will do research later to confirm or refute my perceptions. It’s just a very affirming experience living in the Information Age to remember that not all knowledge needs to be obtained in a linear, print- or electronic-based format. If this idea intrigues you Stephen Harrod Buhner has written extensively on the topic in THE LOST LANGUAGE OF PLANTS, SECRET TEACHINGS OF PLANTS: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature as well as his new release, PLANT INTELLIGENCE AND THE IMAGINAL REALM:Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth. I haven’t read the last one but it is on my wish list. There is never anything derivative about Mr. Buhner’s work. Gotta love someone whose job title includes Earth Poet & Bardic Naturalist.

These steps completed, I am ready to open my NEWCOMB’S and get started on a positive identification. There are 5 questions to answer (pg. x) and they go something like this:

*The first two questions have to do with flower type. Botanical terms are used but you don’t have to study and memorize them before using the key. Handy line drawings and explanations of terms are only a couple of pages away (starting on pg. xiv). So the first question is Is the flower regular (radially symmetrical) or irregular, or are the flower parts indistinguishable? Here is a very close, tight shot of a single tiny opened flower on the vine, thanks to my daughter’s photography skills (Thanks, Morgan!):

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This flower is tiny, about the size of a peppercorn. A magnifying glass is a handy tool for noting details on such small blossoms.

For my second question NEWCOMB’S  asks, If regular, how many petals or similar parts does it have? If you don’t have a field guide, botany text, or other such book I am certain you can google these terms for now and find clear illustrations of the difference between regular and irregular flowers. I answered that the flower was regular with 6 petals. This resulted in me obtaining the first of three numbers that the book assigns in the keying out process. A flower with 6 regular parts (or petals) is given the number 6.

On to the next two questions that will help me determine the plant type. NEWCOMB’S asks Is the plant a wildflower or a shrub or a vine? If it is a wildflower, is it without leaves, or if it has leaves, are they all at the base of the plant, or are they arranged singly on the stem (alternate), or are they opposite one another in pairs or whorls? (There’s three new terms for you: alternate, opposite, and whorled…You’re learning to speak Botany!) Here are two more photos of my plant that can help answer these two questions:

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What plant type would you classify this one as?

Due to the twining nature of the plant I chose to label it a vine. This gave me the second digit in the three digit number that helps locate the specific plant I am identifying. Vines are the plant type labeled with the number 6. Thus, I have a two digit key number now of 66.

The last question is about the type of leaf on the plant. NEWCOMB’S asks Are the leaves entire (with even and unbroken margins), or are they toothed or lobed or divided? Entire, toothed, lobed, divided…four more botanical terms; you’re doing great. Look back at the leaves in the photos of our lovely plant. What type do you think they are?

I called these leaves entire because the edges were smooth and unbroken. This leaf type gets a number 2, which means my three digit locator number for using the locator key in NEWCOMB’S is 662. I flip to the locator key which begins on page 1 and thumb through to number 662. That number tells me to turn to page 356 where I should find a line drawing of the plant in the picture above if I have answered all of the questions correctly. I’m pretty excited at this point and I’ve learned a bunch of new terms without any studying, memorizing or quizzes. The line drawing matches (Giant, happy smile inserted here!) but it is important not to stop here. I look to the left of the drawing to read the description carefully to make sure that is a match as well. Here is what I read:

“Flowers in drooping racemes or spikes, leaves long-pointed, heart-shaped at the base. Flowers small, greenish-yellow, the staminate and pistillate in separate clusters. [You’ll learn those terms as you go along but you don’t need them to use this key.] Leaves entire and alternate, or the lower ones in whorls of 3. Stem twining 5-15 feet long. Moist thickets, s. New England to Minnesota and south…”

I double check all these features on the plant in front of me. (Is it driving you crazy yet that I haven’t told you the name?) But what’s this? I do, indeed, see both alternate and whorled leaves but the whorled ones have more than 3 leaf stems. Here are some photos of the two leaf attachment types on the same plant.

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Leaf stems are attached here in a staggered, or “alternate” manner.

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Clearly whorled leaf stem attachments but I count 5 here. 

But now I am armed with a name (which I will eventually reveal to you…I promise). I take this name and look up more information on the plant in my Peterson Field Guide EASTERN/CENTRAL MEDICINAL PLANTS by Steven Foster and James A. Duke and read:

“Perennial twining vine; stem smooth. Leaves alternate (lower ones in whorls of 3-8), heart-shaped, hairy beneath; veins conspicuous. Flowers not showy; male and female flowers separate…”

Bingo! Now I feel confident that I have correctly identified this plant. It matches the line drawings and descriptions in both books as well as the color photograph (the LAST thing I looked at) in Peterson’s. That book further tells me that:

“American Indians used the root tea to relieve labor pains. The freshly dried root (tea) formerly used by physicians for colic, gastrointestinal irritations, morning sickness, asthma, spasmodic hiccough, rheumatism, and ‘chronic gastritis of drunkards.’ Contains diosgenin, used to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs. Of all plant genera, there is perhaps none with greater impact on modern life but whose dramatic story is as little known as [this plant]. Most of the steroid hormones used in modern medicine, especially those in contraceptives, were developed from elaborately processed chemical components derived from [this plant]. Drugs made with…(diosgenins) relieve asthma, arthritis, eczema, regulate metabolism and control fertility. Synthetic products manufactured from diosgenins include human sex hormones (contraceptive pills), drugs to treat menopause, dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, testicular deficiency, impotency, prostate hypertrophy, and psycho-sexual problems, as well as high blood pressure, arterial spasms, migraines, and other ailments. Widely prescribed cortisones and hydrocortisones were indirect products of the genus Dioscorea. They are used for Addison’s disease, some allergies, bursitis, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, brown recluse spider bites, insect stings, and other diseases and ailments. Warning: Fresh plant may induce vomiting and other undesirable side effects.”

Wow! What a plant and it is growing just outside my door and was not even planted or cultivated by any human. I hope you are as blown away by this as I am. Aren’t you glad that I didn’t just tell you the name of the plant right off? But I guess it is time, if you haven’t already guessed it…drum roll, please…

WILD YAM (Dioscorea villosa)

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Handy identification tool kit. The magnifying glass is not essential but it can prove useful. I don’t usually write down my number results as I’ve done here but I wanted to be able to show the process clearly. The printed page is from NEWCOMB’S WILDFLOWER GUIDE and is the question page used to determine your three digit number for using the locator key and identifying the plant in question. The whole process took a little over 10 minutes, most of which was spent taking pictures. I had the plant identified in about 2 minutes. It certainly took far less time that writing about it did! It might be good to start with a couple of plants you actually already know, such as Dandelion, until you are comfortable using a key to identify. 

I have lost track of the precise quote or even the writer  (I think it was educational innovator, John Holt.) but I read a wonderful definition of intelligence many decades ago. It went something like this:

Intelligence is not defined by how many facts you know and can recall but, rather, by what you do when you don’t know the answer. 

I love that and try to keep it foremost in my mind as I go about my life. If we choose not to learn to use tools for finding answers we do not currently know, we will always be limited by what the one teaching us knows and what we can retain. But if we take the explorer’s approach, packing an abundant supply or curiosity and wonder, and take useful tools in hand…the sky’s the limit. Or is it?

Hoping all your discoveries are happy ones! ~Leenie

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21-Day Real Wild Food Challenge & Ponderings

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A generous gallon-sized  colander serves as my gathering basket three times a day and returns to the kitchen loaded with both organically cultivated and wild-crafted foods.

I have a penchant for challenging myself to look at my own assumptions, perceptions, and perspectives. When I reach that jaded, all-too-familiar point where I think I know what comes next or how things work…every time…I like to shake things up and turn my world on its head so I can look at it with new eyes and come to it with a beginner’s mind. So, a few days ago I decided to challenge myself to 21 days of eating only real (mostly from our garden and farm) and wild foods. The goal is not to lose weight or even “clean up my diet.” Rather, it is an exercise in awareness.

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Blueberry and Red Raspberry leaves, Nettles tops, and Lemon Balm destined for the teapot 

Like many of these “games of awareness” I like to play, this one was designed and embraced in a flash of a moment of insight, seemingly out of the blue, and was led by a cluster of little “What if…?” questions. Because I said yes to the inspiration, I spent almost no time in planning or setting up parameters. I am figuring those out as I go along and questions arise. I’ll describe the beginning phase of my challenge below but first here are some of my “What if’s…”:

What if…

…I look to the Earth and its provision daily instead of the weekly sale flyers, my budget, or coupon circulars to decide what to eat?

…the seasonal abundance informs my food choices rather than diet plans or nutritional philosophies?

…I trust that real food, just as it is, is really good for me?

…I belong here and my life, health, and vitality are supported by the Earth, the sun, the atmosphere (creating all these weather patterns and seasons), and beyond? 

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What if…tea doesn’t come from a bag with a string on it, or a box or a tin? What if…it comes from my yard and garden? 

We have a fair amount of early greens, herbs and edibles in our permaculture beds now so I qualify this as “real” food. I know some wild food plants and I know that they are available and easy to obtain right outside my door so I qualify these as “real wild” foods that nourish parts of me beyond RDA’s, food pyramids or My Plate analysis and assessments. I don’t want this to be laborious or tedious so I allow things like olive oil, butter, grains, etc. When I purchase or obtain these from our pantry I simply ask myself, “Is this real?” If I can picture someone(s) gathering in a harvest of olives and pressing them, dairying that involves milking, culturing or churning, harvesting wheat or rice and minimally processing, then I deem it “real”. Just try to envision how that can of spray cheese comes to be and you get the idea of what my mind cannot wrap itself around as “real” although its existence is a pretty wild concept to me. Remember, this is a self-created challenge on the order of playmates deciding to “pretend we’re Robinhood and his Merry Men living in Sherwood Forest” so it is about the romp and the discoveries more than the science and theory.

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Real & Wild Breakfast: a variety of braised garden-grown and wild-crafted greens (kale, spinach, dandelion, mallow, lamb’s quarters, garlic mustard, nettles, wild onion) with curried free-range eggs and a light crumbling of goat cheese; home canned peaches and fresh grapefruit; homemade corn crepe.

As I said, I am only a few days into my challenge. I am recording what I gather and eat, how I feel, and my reflections on the process. At the end of 21 days I will share some of these and welcome feedback and any ideas it might spark for others. I am taking pictures of many of the meals, plants, nature treks, and other inspired adventures beyond food…like making goat milk soap or cheese.

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When a spring cold threatened in the family I asked, what if…pots of fresh herbal teas and rich Garlic soup (and rest) can address it as well as antihistamines and pain relievers? 

Lots of ‘What if’s…?” to explore and many discoveries lie ahead in the next few weeks. Wishing you a season of growth, abundance, and an awareness of your place in the grand scheme of life. ~Leenie

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Wednesdays Weeds: LAMB’S QUARTERS

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Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)

Lamb’s Quarters is one of my favorite all-purpose greens for a variety of reasons, not least of which includes its wide and long availability through the summer. It’s popping up all over the garden and yard now and is under six inches tall but certainly big enough to toss into salads or other wild green mixes for cooking. Other common names include Goosefoot (Cheno=goose + podium=foot), Wild Spinach (spinach used to be classified in the Chenopodiaceae family but is now an Amaranthaceae member), Fat Hen, and Pigweed.

John Kallas, PhD in his book EDIBLE WILD PLANTS: Wild Foods From Dirt to Plate, calls Lamb’s Quarters, along with Chickweed, Mallow, and Purslane, a foundation green for its mild taste, which makes it suitable to use raw in salads or pesto, cooked in almost any dish calling for greens. Lamb’s Quarters is crazy good nutrition. Several sources, including BOTANY IN A DAY by Thomas J. Elpel say that it contains more calcium than any other plant ever analyzed. How much? One cup cooked contains 46% of the RDA for calcium but it doesn’t stop there. It also contains 281% of vitamin A, 111% of vitamin C, and 7% of the iron needed. It is also low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and is a good source of niacin, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium, copper and manganese. Basically, it is a wild super food!

When I first learned to identify, gather, and enjoy Lamb’s Quarters decades ago I didn’t have all the resources in book form and online that are available today. But I did come across an Euell Gibbons book (STALKING THE WILD ASPARAGUS) that contained a wonderful little chart comparing the nutritional analysis of wild verses cultivated vegetables and fruits. When I saw the difference between Lamb’s Quarters and garden Spinach, and I gave the wild version a taste, I was completely sold. Spinach registers 56% of the RDA for vitamin A, 3% for calcium, 14% for vitamin C, and 4% for iron. That is when I first started using the term, which I think I invented, primary wild foods instead of “weeds”. We all know that commercial agriculture focuses on ship-ability and shelf-life over nutritional value and flavor. No where is this more apparent than in the difference between Lamb’s Quarters and Spinach. I do grow and enjoy Spinach but I probably eat even more of the wild version.

If you’ve eaten pesto, spinach lasagna, or spanakopita at my home you’re likely to have tasted the wild cousin of Spinach since I use that more often. It grows all summer and keeps me busy blanching and freezing it as well as eating it fresh. The fine crystalline powder on the upper leaves, which also appears on garden Spinach, is an identifying characteristic. This white, waxy ‘bloom’ is not present on the otherwise similar looking Hairy Nightshade and Ground Cherry Nightshade (Solanum physalifolium, S. sarracoides, S. villosum).

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Lamb’s Quarters in the Elecampane Patch

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Hairy Nightshade 

This plant has similarly shaped leaves but never a white ‘bloom’ and the flowers, of course, are drastically different.

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Lamb’s Quarters flower buds, which will later produce dark, shiny seeds

The seeds and the flower buds of Lamb’s Quarters are both edible but they need to be gathered at just the right stage and handled with care. The green leaves are the main way we enjoy this wild green. The possibilities for use are limited only by your culinary imagination but here are some images to spark ideas.

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Fillo pastry is a favorite way to make Wild Spinach Pies (Spanakopita or Hortopita), whether as one large pie or small individual ones.

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Wild Spinach/Lamb’s Quarters are a natural for summer salads

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We like to make pesto using wild greens like Lamb’s Quarters and use that in place of tomato sauce for a unique summer time wild green pizza.

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Sauteed as a green, a wild filling for burritos or crepes, added to fried rice…the possibilities abound. 

Enjoy! ~Leenie

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Wednesday’s Weeds: MOTHERWORT

young motherwort

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) in early to mid spring

“Wort” is an Old English term that simply means plant. Thus, Motherwort can be thought of as mother’s plant. It is found throughout our area and at this time of year will most likely look like a low bushy clump as in the picture above. Later it will grow anywhere from 2-5 feet tall, as in this picture:

Mature Motherwort

Mature Motherwort in flower

Motherwort’s square stems readily reveal its membership in the Mint family. Leaves are opposite, 3-lobed, and toothed. The pinkish flowers are whorled and form in the axils of the leaf stems. The upper lip of the flower is furry but they are small so you will have to pause and take time to get a close up look to notice this.

motherwort_closeup

Motherwort flowers

Motherwort has a long traditional use as a regulator, whether of hormones or heartbeats. It helps establish regular menstrual cycles and to tame the wild mood swings that can accompany them. Traditional midwives use Motherwort to regulate childbirth contractions and it can be a wonderful ally when heart palpitations during menopause become a concern. Scientific studies confirm its use as an antispasmodic, hypotensive, and mild sedative. Many Chinese studies have well documented laboratory and clinical reports of these uses as well as confirming its effectiveness as a uterine tonic.

I always enjoy botanical Latin for all that it reveals about a plant with just a word or two. Motherwort’s Latin binomial is Leonurus (lion) cardiaca (heart), hence lion-hearted. Motherwort has definitely helped me to “take heart” and face the challenges of daily life with greater fortitude, courage, and resilience. Rosemary Gladstar in her wonderful FAMILY HERBAL: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality says of it: “Motherwort is a superb tonic for nourishing and strengthening the heart muscle and its blood vessels. It is a remedy for most heart disease, neuralgia, and an over-rapid heartbeat. It is valued for many women’s health issues, including delayed menstruation, uterine cramps associated with scanty menses, water retention, and hot flashes and mood swings during menopause.” 

Flowering stem of Motherwort

The regularity and symmetry of Motherwort in flower hints at her charms and effects. She is erect and balanced. Leaves are opposite, uniform and evenly spaced. Flowers form in perfect whorls like crowns atop the leaf stems. When life feels chaotic, all-over-the-place, and demands seem to pull in every direction, Motherwort teaches our hearts to find a natural rhythm again and helps us return to a natural cadence.

I like to make a tincture from the plant using the leaves and flowering tops just as it begins to come into flower and the individual blooms are not quite open. Certainly gather it before it flowers fully. The leaves are the main part used medicinally so anytime that the leaves are looking vital and vibrantly alive they can be gathered. It can be dried and used in a tea along with other herbs for a flavor you like, or it can be steeped in alcohol (brandy, vodka, or pure grain alcohol) for 4-6 weeks before straining. It is traditionally used in a rhythmic way for regulating menses and typical PMS symptoms. That is, taken in doses of 10-15 drops in a little water or juice (or directly under the tongue straight-up) 2-3 times per day for the two weeks prior to the start of the period. If that is not known, simply start using it when PMS symptoms begin and continue for two weeks, then take a two week break. Two weeks on, two weeks off. Everything in balance, says Motherwort. As above, so below.

Leonurus cardiaca

Take heart, Good Mother, there’s a weed right outside your doorstep waiting to help. 

~Leenie

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WEDNESDAY’S WEEDS: DANDELION

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Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Yes, it was inevitable that I would include this most maligned of all common wild plants. I find myself in a very small minority of admirers when I dare to voice my appreciation for this food, medicine, soil fertility enhancer, friend to bees and other pollinators, and “doctor plant” especially for ailing shallow-rooted plants. I actually had to restrain myself from making it the first entry in my Wednesday’s Weeds posts. There is so much to love about this plant and so little reason to dislike it that I can only marvel over its ubiquitous image on the labels of practically every weed-killer and herbicide that lines the big box lawn and garden centers. If you are a Dandelion hater then probably nothing included in this blog post will change your mind…but I can still hope. 😀 If you are already a Dandelion lover I hope you will find some new facts, recipes and uses for an old friend. If you’re sitting on the fence, come on down and enjoy a stroll among the sunny blossoms and give it a try. When I do weed walks I always ask how many recognize this plant. Almost without exception, every hand shoots up. But when I follow it up by asking how many use the plant, the opposite occurs. Almost no one raises their hand. Familiarity breeds contempt perhaps? Yet there are so many ways and reasons to appreciate it.

Dandelion is irrepressible, the Polly-Anna of the wild plant world as it interfaces with humans. All summer they will be popping up in lawns, fields, and meadows. Many a  lawn-scaping weekend warrior is suiting up now for another season of battle. Guido Mase in THE WILD MEDICINE SOLUTION: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter & Tonic Plants sums up the situation humorously as he describes his attempt to keep his vegetable and medicinal plant garden pristine from interlopers like Dandelion: “I had to acknowledge that the entire situation was now out of my control. That’s a good thing to do sometimes.” [My emphasis added.] He goes on to add, “Mow them down and they simply flower closer to the ground. Pave them over and they will find and expand any cracks. Poison them and, in the end, you only succeed in poisoning your own children, for the dandelions only adapt, resist, and continue to spread. But just as you can’t keep a good rebel in chains, you can’t keep a good idea down either. They are like that thought that nags at the back of your conscience, the one you keep dismissing because it is too challenging, too risky, too ugly to entertain. It keeps waving its little flag for a reason: it is the best medicine for you right now. And so I feel it is with the dandelion: the weed we love to hate is perhaps the best catalyst to deliver us from the bondage of perpetual, hypnotic, addictive sweetness.”

Fresh DandelionWhole Dandelion bouquet harvest ready for tincturing this spring.

DANDELION NUTRITIONALLY & CULINARY 

All parts of the Dandelion plant are edible and nutritious and, if handled properly, delicious. The leaves and roots are rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E as well as the minerals iron, phosphorous, potassium and calcium. The bitter components in Dandelion are a digestive stimulant. Europe has a long history of using digestive bitters for health but sadly that was a tradition that has not been carried to America on a large scale. Adding chopped leaves to other mild and sweet salad greens dramatically improves the nutritional value, especially if you are in the habit of using basically nutrient-free iceberg lettuce. No need to replace all other greens with 100% Dandelion greens; just add a little each day and you will get the boost they provide.

Wild Salad

Wild Salad heavy on the Dandelion greens. If you are not accustomed to the bitter bite of Dandelion you should start slowly with just a few chopped leaves added to your other greens. I have a taste for bitter (think extra dark chocolate and espresso) so I rather enjoy them but you can derive the benefits just as easily by going light or using other preparations.

Hortopita

Our family’s take on the traditional Greek Hortopita. These delicious, flaky “weed pies” are filled with wild greens, including Dandelion, rice, fresh herbs, cheeses, and onions.

Dandelion Jelly

Dandelion Jelly…a.k.a. home canned sunshine!

If it is impossible for you to eat fresh Dandelion greens try making a tincture of the whole plant in early spring to derive the benefits.

Tincturing Dandelion

Fresh, whole Dandelion, washed and chopped is now ready for tincturing. I often use pure grain alcohol for tincture making and follow the ratios of water to alcohol in Richo Cech’s MAKING PLANT MEDICINE, but simply using 100 proof vodka to cover your fresh or dried plant material works fine. 

Dandelion Tincture

Dandelion Tincture: fresh whole plant, cleaned and chapped, placed in a clean jar and covered completely with alcohol, labeled and dated. Add patience as it sits and steeps for 4-6 weeks (shaking daily optional) and it’s really that simple. 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. in a little water or straight up before meals for an excellent liver and digestive tonic. 

Flowers can be added to salads as well. Remove the bitter calyx and the yellow flowers (The entire cluster we often refer to as a flower is actually a composite grouping of many, many individual flowers often mistakenly referred to as petals.) are sweet, tasty and add a bright touch of color.

Dandelion flowers

Dandelions free of the green bitter calyx.

Dandelion calyx and flower

To remove the flowers from the calyx twist one to the left while twisting the other to the right. They usually pop right apart.

Dandelion Flower Plucker's Fingers

Dandelion Flower Plucker’s Fingers…the jelly is worth it. 

Roots can be dug, scrubbed, chopped, dried, roasted, ground, and brewed like coffee. Roasting the roots sweetens them by breaking the inulin polysaccharides down into fructose. You can further sweeten your freshly brewed beverage by adding local honey or maple syrup. Add some raw cacao or cocoa powder for  delicious natural mocha. These a fabulous with cream served hot or chilled. Here is a photo essay of one of my favorite specialty drinks:

Cleaned whole Dandelion

Cleaned whole Dandelion destined for tincturing but the roots are what I would chop and use for “coffee”.

Roasting Dandelion roots

Chopped Dandelion roots can be dried and stored for roasting later or dried and roasted to use right away. Although it can be done in an oven, I prefer to roast roots in a dry cast iron skillet, while stirring. They can be roasted as light or dark as you prefer. 

Dried Dandelion roots: un-roasted on the left and roasted on the right. 

Ground roasted Dandeion

Freshly ground roasted Dandelion root. It can certainly be roasted even darker to suit tastes.

Dandelion and Cacao nibs

Roasted Dandelion roots with Raw Cacao nibs in a French press ready for brewing. 

Dandelion Mochas brewing

Dandelion Mochas brewing.

Dandelion Mocha

Delicious Dandelion Mocha. Yumm!

Is this quicker, easier and cheaper than picking up a tub of coffee at the grocery store? Definitely not. Or possibly so if you factor in the time involved in earning the money to buy the coffee, the time and fuel spent driving to and from the store, and so on. Is it healthier for you, your family, and the planet? Decidedly, yes. I enjoy dark roast coffee as well as Dandelion, and they even make a delicious combination that boosts your liver’s health. It need not be an either/ or proposition.

DANDELION MEDICINALLY

Dandelion is a powerhouse for our health. Although I honestly could never pick just one plant, when I am asked (as I often am!) what herb or plant is my favorite, I often say, “Dandelion!” There are a variety of reasons but one of the main ones is because it answers to so many needs and is widely available almost everywhere on the planet. Unless you find yourself on the Arctic tundra you can probably find some. It is food but it is also potent, effective medicine. Below are just a smattering of the findings from scientific studies on Dandelion. These are taken from Timothy Lee Scott’s excellent INVASIVE PLANT MEDICINE: The Ecological Benefits & Healing Abilities of Invasives. (Highly recommended for those interested in such things!)

*Dandelion has shown antimicrobial effects in vitro against Staphylococcus aureaus, B-hemolytic streptococcus, Diplococcus pneumoniae, Diplococcus meningeitides, Corynebacterium diptheriae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus dysenteriae, and Salmonella typhi.

*Water extract of Dandelion leaf decreased the growth of breast cancer cells and blocked the invasion of prostate cancer cells in vitro. Extracts of Dandelion flowers and root appeared to have no effect on the growth of either cell line, yet the root blocked the invasion of breast cancer cells.

*120-180 grams of Dandelion herb in decoction was given to 88 patients suffering with acute tonsillitis in a Chinese study. 82 of the 88 experienced relief.

*Dandelion was found to have an inhibitory effect on pancreatic lipase in vitro (literally “in glass” or in lab tests) and in vivo (in living organisms) and was determined to be of use as a natural weight loss agent.

Dandelion’s actions are antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, immune enhancing, hepato-protective (liver protective), diuretic, and cholagogic (promotes bile production). It is an excellent kidney tonic that acts as a diuretic but, unlike pharmaceutical ones, it is rich in minerals rather than depleting them, especially potassium. Because it blooms so early and late in the year when most other flowers have either not begun or have ceased to bloom, Dandelion is extremely important to bees and the honey industry.

Dandelion’s long taproot enriches and enhances the soil fertility by bringing minerals like potassium, phosphorus, calcium, copper and iron from deep in the subsurface up to a level that more shallow rooted fruits and vegetables can benefit from. I often leave some Dandelion around my Blueberry plants for this reason. Dandelion has been successfully used in phyto-remediation programs to remove heavy metals such as lead from contaminated industrial areas. (For this reason I would take care to be sure that the land where you gather Dandelion…or any other plant you plan to use as food or medicine…has not been sprayed with toxic chemicals, dumped on, or otherwise polluted.)

Dandelion Latex

Most parts of the Dandelion will exude a white sap, or latex, when cut. This has traditionally been applied daily to treat warts and we have found it to be effective for this use.

This brief blog post is just the tip of the iceberg of all there is to learn about Dandelion. I hope it is enough to whet your appetite and sharpen your curiosity to learn more. From fritters to wine, there are gathering baskets more to explore.  ~Leenie

Dandy

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WEED WALKS RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR DOOR

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Stone steps leading to my little greenhouse…perfect spot for a weed walk!

Probably my favorite herbal activity is sharing “weed walks” and teaching about wild edible and medicinal plants. A weed walk is simply a little nature trek ranging anywhere from a few steps to a few miles with the goal of identifying the green life all around us and gaining a greater appreciation for plants that are undervalued and overlooked. Although there are certainly an abundance of valuable plants throughout the deep woods and hills, I find that my main passion in sharing about these primary food plants lies closer to home. Sometimes folks show up for my weed walks decked out as if we are headed into the wilderness for a week. It is a surprise when they discover that we often never lose sight of my home. In fact, we’re often right outside my door.

This little stone step area is a perfect example. I could easily do an entire weed walk on just the plants in the photo…Photo Frame Weed Walks, now there’s a fresh idea! And so I think I will. Join me as we explore the food and medicine of my greenhouse steps and see how simple integrating the wild can be.

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 Stonecrop (Sedum album, S. Rosea. & other species throughout our region)

A lovely and delicious wild edible, this formed the basis of my morning salad pictured at the end of this post. The flavor is lemony and fresh and the texture is crunchy like celery without ribs or like a fresh, crisp cucumber. It grows abundantly all around these stones, coming back year after  year. It started from a gifted 2 inch homemade cloth pot from a friend’s garden nearly two decades ago but it can be found growing wild, along with other Stonecrops around many of our favorite hiking spots nearby.  This small succulent plant is from the same plant family as the popular nursery plant ‘Hens & Chicks’ (Sempervivum).  White Stonecrop can be eaten raw or cooked and can be used medicinally for its mildly astringent and mucilaginous qualities for minor burns, abrasions or insect bites.  Thomas Elpel (Botany in a Day) says it is a safe laxative for children.

Stonecrop makes an excellent no maintenance planting for around stony, difficult, poor soil areas.

Young Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)

When I do weed walks I always slow way down when we come to this plant. Many people excitedly exclaim, “Oh, that’s Wild Carrot!” and are eagerly ready to start digging up the delicious roots. This plant is one that highlights the importance of accurate and absolute identification before consuming. The root is the wild ancestor of all cultivated carrots like you buy in the grocery store but there are distinct differences. The long taproot is white rather than the more familiar orange. Unlike the garden varieties, it contains a woody center that needs to be removed before cooking…unless you have beaver teeth. The scent when you dig the root is sweet and absolutely carrot-like. Another challenge is that you will want to gather first year roots of this biennial plant to get optimum size on the edible part of the root and it can be tricky to tell first year from second year plants, especially early in the season. It can grow lushly to a couple of feet tall or taller and forms lovely white umbels (think
umbrella-shaped) of flowers. These can be pressed and dried to use to decorate holiday evergreen trees and gift packages and cards, looking, as they do, like starry snowflakes.  *EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!* There is a poison look-alike for Wild Carrot. Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) is also a biennial plant with a white, carrot-scented taproot that grows at least a couple of feet and up to 6 feet tall with feathery leaves and umbels of white flowers. Eating even small amounts can result in paralysis and death. There are distinct differences between the two plants, which highlights the importance of paying attention to details. Wild Carrot has fine hairs along the stems, whereas Poison Hemlock has smooth, stout stems that are hollow and grooved and have purple spots or blotches along them. Wild Carrot often has a red or purple flower at the very center of the umbel of white ones while Poison Hemlock does not.

Here is a useful, short video that shows the differences between the two. Because both plants are young in the video you cannot see the splotches along the stem yet. I like his identification tip: “The Queen has hairy legs!”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5mLUG9cnaM

poison hemlock stem

Wild Carrot stem

Top photo: Poison Hemlock stem

Bottom photo: Wild Carrot stem

Wild Carrot flower

Wild Carrot flowering umbel (note the one red flower in the center)

Poison Hemlock flower

Poison Hemlock flowering

Although I would personally consume this plant I caution everyone, including myself, to be absolutely certain of identification of any plant before ingesting, especially Wild Carrot/Queen Anne’s Lace.

Calendula (Calendula officinale) seedlings among the sprouting Wild Carrot

These little Calendula seedlings are volunteers. Although Calendula  is both edible and medicinal I will wait to share about this plant later in the season when it is in full, blooming glory. I included it here because it is a member of the little stone stairway plant “tribe.” Here is a lovely image of it’s sunny brightness to come later in the season:

calendula-flower-openCalendula blossom

DandelionDandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

There is so much to say about this plant that it deserves a post all its own. Check back this Wednesday when it will be highlighted in Wednesday’s Weeds to learn all about her healing charms and delicious delights!

Purple Dead NettlePurple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Both edible and medicinal, this plant is abundantly available right now. I threw some leaves in my salad but later I found this video recipe for Mushroom Onion Dead Nettle soup…I think a search for Morrel mushrooms and gathering some Wild Onions is order while the Dead Nettle is on. I might even make it a little creamy with some fresh goat milk. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xYivHjW49I

Red CloverRed Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red Clover, like Dandelion, deserves its own post and will certainly get it as the season progresses. Gather the blossoms throughout spring and later in the fall. It tends to go dormant during the high heat of summer. You can identify it by the pale chevron at the center of each of its three leaves. The blossoms and top leaves are rich in B vitamins and have a long history of use as a tea for treating various tumors and abnormal cell growth. The blossoms are sweet and delicious sprinkled over a salad, eaten raw hand-to-mouth, or brewed into a tea. Bees love the lovely blossoms, too, so leave plenty for their good work. This is an expensive herb to buy dried and I have found the quality to be generally low commercially. Mountain Rose Herbs carries excellent quality when you can get it but why not gather your own locally? Here is what it will look like in bloom:

Red Clover

Red Clover blossom

Violet

Common Blue Violet (Viola papilionacea)

I am sure this plant needs a blog post of her own as well. What a beautiful sight to come upon a sweep of these is  shady spot in the spring. It prefers quiet, shady damp spots but years of tromping back and forth to our favorite violet-gathering spot, “Violet Valley” (named by my kids many years ago) has resulted in it growing abundantly right up to our door step. The flowers are sweet and tasty eaten like candies or sprinkled over a salad. They can be made into a syrup for homemade sodas or made into a lovely violet colored jelly. The heart-shaped leaves are edible as well. Both leaves and flowers make an excellent tea for sore throat.

So there is a mini weed walk that took less than half a dozen steps from my door and resulted in a wonderful breakfast as I move into the Eat-Something-Wild-Everyday season. This is what my breakfast bowl gathering basket looked like from the gleanings of the greenhouse stone steps:

Wild primary foods (“weeds”) in the gathering bowl and rinsed and ready for chopping.

Breakfast Wild Salad

Wild Breakfast Salad with Goat Milk Yogurt & Honey Dressing

Yes, I eat salad for breakfast, especially when the wild greens are on. What better way to start the day than with a little barefoot walk  and a gathering basket. I used Stonecrop, Dandelion leaves and flowers, Violet leaves and flowers, and Purple Dead Nettle…about a heaping cup. To this I added some garbonzo beans for some protein and made a dressing by combining a couple of tablespoons of homemade goat milk yogurt, a spoon of local raw honey, and a dash of stone ground mustard. Later in the season I would have added fresh raw sweet peas from the garden and maybe some wild or cultivated berries. Tossed it all together and topped with a few more Violet blossoms. Scrumptious! ~Leenie

 

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